Internet Privacy Index
It also aims to encourage open discussion on Internet privacy and free speech, as well as challenge stereotypes of how we perceive good governments and snooping dictatorships. Its ultimate goal, however, is to inspire regular citizens, privacy protection organizations, and investigative journalists across the globe to continue the fight for endorsement of the right to privacy de jure and de facto in every country.
Privacy: De Jure and De Facto
Whenever a new online privacy or digital freedoms index crops up, the first thing it tends to evaluate is privacy-protecting laws in each country.
However, a quick look at how mass surveillance and privacy-protecting regulations stake against the actual government privacy invasion practices showed that laws – or the lack of whereof – seldom reflect what really happens to online privacy across the globe.
The fact that many countries never bothered to include the right to privacy and cybersecurity in their constitutions is telling. But even the countries that do have laws on the books that protect “personal data” have well-documented records of violating citizen’s civil rights.
Freedom: Open Discussion vs Silence
Media coverage of government spying on their own citizens is a two-fold indicator. On the one hand, it outlines the possible scale of the actual mass surveillance practices in a given country. On the other, the very fact that mass media cover the issue indicates the strength of the freedom of speech and independent press in that country.
Likewise, the lack of media scandals involving state-sponsored mass surveillance does not mean there is no surveillance going on. On the contrary, it might be a clear symptom of an oppressive regime persecuting investigative journalism and free speech. A dictatorship that routinely spies on its own citizens is unlikely to tolerate an open discussion of its intelligence gathering and freedom-oppressing practices.
Censorship = Mass Surveillance
Given that censorship and state-imposed content control are impossible without widespread surveillance of Internet use, it is safe to assume that the presence of censorship and content control are clear indicators of mass surveillance.
We aim to look beyond conventional stereotypes of what we think is a typical oppressive regime. A surveillance state can be a traditional oppressive dictatorship or the more modern style of a maternalistic iron claw in the velvet glove coming across as a democracy.